Reconceptualizing Youth Political Socialization: A Theoretical Framework

Today I met one of my classmates. Her father is in an Israeli jail as are many Palestinians. She has many brothers and sisters. I asked her about her life, she said: I miss my father. Sometimes I listened to the prisoners’ families when they talked on the radio and TVs. Families do that to assure prisoners, and it is a type of communication because they can’t visit them. In my opinion this is all invalid; a phone call couldn’t replace a mother seeing and hugging her son. Or could not replace a married father seeing his wife and children. Israel deprived those children from their fathers. And they deprived youth from building their own future. Palestinian youth's fight for their homeland is perceived by Israel as a threat to its security. I want all prisoners to be free, because freedom is wonderful. I wish everyone to be free.

- 15-year-old female from a city

Youth Political Socialization: An Introduction

The conventional views of political socialization of youth have been largely limited to the impact of immediate family and what is learned within school curriculum (Gordon & Taft, 2011; van Deth, Abendschon, & Vollmar, 2011). Traditionally, it was held that children will almost always duplicate their parents’ or caregivers’ political views, especially as related to political party affiliation, voting patterns, and political involvement (Allen & Bang, 2015; McDevitt & Chaffee, 2002; Schulman & DeAndrea, 2014).

© The Author(s) 2017

J. Habashi, Political Socialization of Youth,

DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-47523-7_2

However, this conventional or “traditional” model of youth political socialization is antiquated, as research has shown that there are several other factors at play. Political socialization is in fact a dynamic process and youth respond to it by forming their agency. Youth are part of multiple realities and influenced by a variety of factors, including family, community, and location in which they live; education, schools, and peers; gender; religious elements; and media (all of these are discussed more in depth in subsequent chapters). Youth are not passive recipients of political stimuli but play an active role in shaping their own political perspectives as they are “reflective agents growing up within specific and historical contexts..(Yates & Youniss, 1998, p. 496). This chapter will deconstruct the traditional model of political socialization that mutes youth political agency and illustrate the different ways youth are politically socialized, with particular focus on the multiple agents, realities, and relationship between local and global discourses that assist in forming youth’s perspectives and actions, keeping in mind that all of these elements are closely interrelated.

In the Palestinian case, political socialization of youth is complicated by the geopolitical reality of Israeli occupation and the local/global forces that are complacent in oppression. This occupation adds a layer to other agents of socialization and meanings of political realities as youth act as part of the resistance, resilience, and reworking in everyday living and the fight for their homeland. A huge part of the political socialization for Palestinian youth is the ways in which they internalize (and act upon) the everyday living reality of occupation, including Israeli checkpoints, lack of access to education and healthcare, and limited freedom of movement, among other things. All of these elements show that political socialization of youth moves much further beyond immediate family, or even education. A 15-year-old male youth participant from a refugee camp discussed Israeli checkpoints within a journal entry and wrote, “Israeli soldiers [were] holding weapons and stopped us at a checkpoint, they examined the car and then let us go. We smiled, and our smiles [acted as] shouts to them.” This quote illustrates the local political reality as not only a source of political socialization but also as a source of youth political agency.

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